“Other sheep I have, that are not of this fold;
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice,
and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”
the most mis‑used words or concepts of the 20th century is that of
“Ecumenism.” When used correctly, it refers to the unity of all those
who share the same Faith. For example, an ecumenical council is a
gathering of all the bishops of the Catholic Church. The word is
incorrectly used when referring to the coming together of people with
different beliefs and philosophies, without any regard for what is true.
the unchanging belief of Catholics that there is such a thing as
objective truth. Often it is difficult for us to know the truth, but at
least in the mind of God there is an objective reality—one which doesn't
depend upon the opinions, of feelings or likes or dislikes of each
that this truth must be unchanging, because God Himself is changeless.
If He could change, He would not be perfect. As Saint James tells us:
God is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow
sometimes it is hard to know the truth with certainty. For the most
part, we make due with knowing the truth through the light of human
reason. We examine the evidence at hand, and make a decision based on
past experience. This works reasonably well, but does leave room for
error if our evidence is incomplete, if our experience has not been
broad enough, of if our logic is faulty.
Recognizing that we sometimes make such mistakes, Almighty God decided
to help us know the things which are necessary to our salvation through
Divine Revelation. That is to say that He has taken the trouble to tell
us Himself about the things which we must believe, and they way in which
we must act, if we are to please Him and win the reward of heaven.
our belief as Catholics that our Lord established the Church to be the
guardian of this Divine Revelation. We know that this Revelation comes
to us both in the form of written Scripture, and oral Tradition. It is
the Church which is charged with determining which writings belong to
Scripture, which oral traditions are authentic, and then interpreting
both for those of us who live in the world.
further believe that the Church is protected from error in carrying out
this mission. Our Lord gave St. Peter and his successors the power of
“binding and loosing.”
When the pope and the bishop teach as the authoritative heads of the
Church, they are said to be infallible. Such teaching, since it
reflects the unchanging truth in the mind of God must be unchanging
itself. And so it has been, down through the centuries. Even with the
turmoil of modern times, no official teaching of the Church concerning
Faith or Morals has ever changed. The last infallible pronouncement was
made in 1950—Pope Pius XII’s definition of the Assumption of our Blessed
important to distinguish: This gift of infallibility applies only to
the official teaching of the Church for all of its members. There is
nothing in this belief which says that popes, bishops, and priests are
protected from error in their private opinions—even if taught publicly.
There is nothing in this belief which says that popes, bishops, or
priests are unable to sin. Certainly, history has shown us that they
can sin, and they do make errors in judgment.
when they teach officially, for the entire Church, on matters of Faith
or Morals, they convey the truth in the mind of God.
fact that there is an objective truth, and that God has given us this
ability to know it, tells us that it ought to be followed.
wrong for us to engage in “dialogue” with those who would trade away the
Faith—with those who would rather see one worldwide church that teaches
no particular belief, and espouses no particular moral principles. If
there is an eternal truth in the mind of God, it is simply wrong for
those who know it to trade it away with those who don't. There can be
no doctrinal or moral compromise struck with non‑Christians, or even
among those who call themselves Christians.
God's truth is true—and of course, it has to be—and two groups disagree
about that truth, at least one of them has to be wrong.
is why the Church has traditionally been so careful about Catholics
meeting and worshipping with those who do not share our Faith. Prayer
tends to define a person's beliefs. Catholic prayer expresses belief in
such doctrines as the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Sacrifice of
the Cross, the Sacrificial nature of the Mass, the Real Presence in the
Blessed Sacrament, and so on.
worship with those who don't share our Faith, some of these doctrines
must be denied—the Trinity if we pray with Moslems, the Divinity of
Christ if we pray with Jewish people, the Real Presence with many other
Christians. God Himself must be compromised away if we are to pray in a
way acceptable to some of the oriental philosophies.
course, none of this is to say that Catholics cannot work with people of
different belief to do good in the world. We can work with them to feed
the poor, to clothe the naked, or to stand up for the helpless. These
are good and laudable things about which all men of good will agree.
must not compromise our Faith.
Lord tells us today that there are wolves out there. They go about, as
St. Peter says, “as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
And our Lord tells us that there are “hirelings” out there—false
teachers of false religions and false philosophies which will desert us
in time of need. “… there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” And
that one fold can only be brought by our Lord Jesus Christ—and will only
consist of those who hear His voice, and are not led astray by every
siren voice in the wilderness.
they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”